Messi clarifies Hong Kong absence as injury, not political snub

Lionel Messi, the acclaimed eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, addressed the controversy surrounding his absence in a pre-season match against a Hong Kong select XI, emphasizing that the decision was driven by injury and not a political statement.

The superstar footballer, idolized by fans in China, stayed on the bench during Inter Miami’s 4-1 victory on February 4, prompting a disgruntled near 40,000 sellout crowd to chant “Refund!” and express their dissatisfaction with thumbs-down signs and boos directed at Messi and team co-owner David Beckham.

Nationalist politicians interpreted Messi’s non-participation as a snub to China, despite his subsequent appearance in a friendly match in Japan. In a video posted on China’s Weibo platform, Messi vehemently denied any political motives, asserting that if it were the case, he “would not have traveled” to Hong Kong initially.

The World Cup-winning captain stressed his positive relationship with China, expressing that he has “done a lot of things” with the country. Messi explained his absence as a result of an injury, specifically citing “inflammation of an adductor” muscle.

While some fans rallied in support of Messi, emphasizing his love for all fans, others remained unconvinced. Critics on Weibo commented on the challenges of offering an apology, with some expressing discontent and skepticism despite Messi’s explanation.

The repercussions of Messi’s absence have extended beyond fan dissatisfaction. Argentina’s upcoming friendlies against Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing were canceled after Messi failed to play in the Hong Kong match. The controversy surrounding Messi’s absence has highlighted the delicate balance between sports and politics, leaving fans and critics alike contemplating the implications of this unexpected turn of events.

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